After I wrote about the violent and crazed behavior of New Mexico police officers against Oriano Ferrell, a black single mother, and her four children, I got angry and admonishing responses from couple of people who didn’t like my take on that incident, and reminded me of the need for “deference” to those who “protect and serve”, and for respect for “authority”. One even accused me of playing “the race card” for taking the side of the black single mother, rather than the white police. For him, the problem was “the mentality of black women”. I realize there are individuals who either disagree with me or have mixed feelings about this particular incident. Their disagreement is generally based on whom or what they put their focus on: the error in judgement of a black mother of five who feared the police and panicked and did the wrong thing, or the violent and clearly criminal reaction of police officers acting like rabid and crazed hunting dogs that put the lives of four children in danger, much more than their speeding mother ever did. Ms. Ferrell made a mistake in running from the police, probably because of her fear of police and because she did not want to be separated from her children by going to jail. But, her actions or error of judgement was not nearly as criminal or dangerous as the actions of the police who broke the window of the car on the passenger side with children inside and then shot at the car, with total and complete disregard for the safety and well being of those children.
The reaction of such people to my opinion piece is understandable because the frame of reference for their judgement is they themselves who have lived a sheltered life and whose only experience with police has been either what they’ve seen on TV or possibly from getting a speeding ticket from a cop who didn’t mistreat them the way white police have treated black people for generations. For them, reality only hits them only when they themselves experience it firsthand, themselves. It is this kind of narrow and individualistic thinking, created and reinforced by corporate media, that insulates them also from the suffering of people overseas that are subjected to the brutality of the US war machine that massacres them in the thousands. Children killed by drones mean no more to such people than innocent teenagers getting killed in the hands of racists like George Zimmerman or young black men getting shot on the back by white police who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan to fight enemies within.
The reason I talk about this again here is twofold:
1. Police violence is a pressing problem that’s out of control and getting worse by the day, especially for blacks and Latinos.
2. Far too many people still remain ignorant of this pressing situation and make excuses for police, which in turn makes changing the situation that much harder. This is not too different from the issue of the NSA spying on all citizens. In that case too, some reacted by defending the actions of the “authorities” and the police state which is increasingly tightening the noose around people’s neck.
The number one priority of the police should not be to make sure, at any cost and with any means possible, that those suspected of breaking the law don’t get away. Their number one concern should be the safety of people; after all, that’s what we’re told is their job. But the reality is anything but. It is far more likely to be killed by police than by terrorists. Yet, billions are spent in the name of fighting “terrorism” which is a red herring, and none on stopping police violence and shootings. Likewise, there is far more chance of getting beaten by police than by strangers you may encounter on the streets – depending, of course on your social and economic status. The white middle class liberals sometimes forget about the rest of the population who don’t quite have the same protections and safety they do.
What we must most worry about is not African American mothers running from the police, but, rather, a police force with warrior mentality, treating citizens as enemy and our city streets as their war zone. What we must also be concerned about is racism which is alive and well and as strong as ever despite our first African American president.